Battered by scandal, corruption, mismanagement, distrust and debt, the Town of Oyster Bay desperately needs change. It must break with tradition, improve its culture, separate politics from governance and open itself to the input and scrutiny of its residents.
Incumbent Joseph Saladino, the Republican candidate for supervisor, is not far enough removed from what Oyster Bay has been to lead the town toward what it must become. The best candidate is Marc Herman, a 63-year-old Syosset dentist who serves on the medical ethics committee for the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and has a master’s in ethics. That’s a degree that should come in handy.
Saladino, 56, of Massapequa, was appointed to lead the town in January after longtime Supervisor John Venditto resigned to fight federal charges of corruption involving millions of dollars in loans the town guaranteed for restaurateur Harendra Singh. The machinations with Singh are a stain that involved other high-level town officials and the indictment of Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, whose base of power is rooted in the town.
But it’s practically small potatoes compared with the charges brought by Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas in June. She alleges that Venditto, other town politicos and vendors profited by manipulating zoning decisions and paving contracts. The case again highlights the power of former Oyster Bay planning and development Commissioner Frederic Ippolito, who pleaded guilty in federal court last year to evading taxes on $2 million he received from Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc., a town contractor. Ippolito has since died, but why was he paid the $2 million? This is typical of the embedded, systemic corruption that needs to be exposed by an outsider. But corruption wasn’t the only problem. Venditto drove the town into $800 million worth of debt and fought the kind of economic development the town needs to be vital and healthy.
None of this is the fault of Saladino, who, although he did work for the town and Venditto until 2004, had been in the State Assembly since. In Albany, he was relentless in addressing local problems like the Bethpage plume. But in the nine months he’s run Oyster Bay, he hasn’t proved he deserves the job permanently. His hiring of a $163,000-a-year Mangano operative without providing the town board with a resume or job description beforehand, or following a competitive hiring process, is straight out of the patronage playbook, and Saladino seems incapable of understanding why it would bother anyone. His lack of willingness to ban political party leaders from at-will town jobs is also tone deaf. His demeanor is at times unacceptable, as he cannot seem to avoid shouting down opponents in public. And he’s shown far more devotion to using news releases, social media and multiple town-financed mailers to make it look like he’s changing Oyster Bay than substantively doing so.
Herman was president of the Syosset school board from 2006 to 2012, and was president of the Gates Ridge Civic Association. He knows how to listen to people to see how he ought to lead, and to make transparency and honesty the highest priorities of a government. He thinks the town ethics board needs everyday people on it, and he’s right. He wants to prioritize improving the worst roads and to create a master plan to show when every road was last paved and will next be paved, and to put this information online. Herman sees new development in downtown Hicksville as a key to raising revenue, but wants all changes done with transparency.
Herman can’t do it alone; voters who want change must also support the Democratic board candidates challenging the GOP incumbents.
Newsday endorses Herman.